In search of the purebred truth

By DEMORRIS A. LEE | Times Staff Writer

Published : Jan 28, 2007

More owners are saying that a breeder’s dogs were not purebreds as advertised.

Rachel Poland was stunned when she found out a local dog breeder had been accused of selling dogs she falsely claimed to be pure breeds.

Poland said she, too, was a victim. In March 2005, she purchased what she thought was a purebred poodle from Vilisity Dawn Stow for $850. But after several failed attempts to get the breeding papers for the small dog she named Gracie Mae, she gave up.

“First, she said she was going to mail the papers, then she said she was in the middle of moving,” said Poland of Tarpon Springs.

“It was one excuse after another. She even changed her cell number,” Poland said. “It was like beating a dead horse, and you just kinda give up.”

Poland isn’t alone.

Since Stow was arrested and charged last month with several felonies and misdemeanors, other potential victims began contacting Pinellas County’s Department of Justice and Consumer Services and the State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County with similar complaints.

Stow, 29, of Clearwater, faces two counts of grand theft for selling dogs that may not have been pure breeds as advertised. The four misdemeanor charges are for the sale of dogs without proper medical paperwork.

Stow, who was released from Pinellas County Jail on $10,000 bond on Dec. 20, faces a maximum of 10 years if convicted of the two felony charges.

Gary White, an assistant state attorney, said there are now about 40 cases being investigated.

“I expect there will be additional criminal charges,” White said. “I can’t determine how many and what shape they will take, but I expect there will be more.”

White said an additional felony charge of grand theft could be leveled for every case where it has been determined Stow made a misrepresentation and more than $300 was paid.

“Consumers who feel like they have been victimized should contact Consumer Services,” White said.

Poland is filing a complaint. In addition to not getting breeding papers, she said that as Gracie Mae got older, she looked more like a poodle-Maltese mix.

Contacted this week, Stow’s husband referred all questions to her defese attorney, Roger Futerman. Futerman declined to comment on the possibility of additional charges.

“Having just received the large amount of police reports and evidence, it would be inappropriate for me to comment,” Futerman said.

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This isn’t the first time Stow has run into trouble with selling dogs. She has been sued at least seven times in Pinellas County in recent years.

Carolyn McFalls won a $1,400 judgment against Stow in 2005, after she learned that the Maltese puppy she thought she was purchasing wasn’t really a Maltese. She also learned that the puppy was ill.

“My vet confirmed that the puppy didn’t have any teeth, wasn’t as old as Stow claimed and had a hernia,” said McFalls, who lived in North Port at the time, but has since moved to Tennessee.

McFalls said Stow told her to return the dog, which she did, and Stow said she would return her money. McFalls said she tried to put a stop-payment on the check, but it was too late.

“She had the dog and the money and was acting as if she wasn’t going to give my money back. I had to sue,” McFalls said.

Javier A. Pagan, of Lutz, purchased a Shih Tzu from Stow on Dec. 22, 2004, intending to give the puppy as a Christmas present to his 5-year-old and 6 year-old.

According to court documents, the dog died a week later from low sugar in the blood caused from parasites. Pagan tried for several months get back the $1,400 he spent on the dog and vet bills, but Stow would never respond to his calls.

“It was sad,” Pagan said. “(Stow) told me that she would give me another puppy and to come over. Every time I showed up, she was never there.”

Pagan sued in April 2005, and was paid $695, the price of the dog, by Stow.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at (727) 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

Featuring Clearwater defense attorney Roger Futerman

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